Ergen Ponders DISH's Challenging 1Q

DISH Network's Charlie Ergen told Wall Street analysts Tuesday that the small dish company has identified the challenges it faces after the business reported a lackluster first quarter.

This week, DISH said that it netted a paltry 35,000 customers during the three-month period, taking the customer count for the DBS platform to 13.815 million. Ergen said DBS competitor DIRECTV and telco video platforms took a large part of new customers during the three-month period.

The company's chairman, CEO and president also outlined three areas where the company faced challenges.

The first item that impacted DISH's results was company operations, including customer service. Ergen described the company's customer service effort as "not broken, but the wheels were wobbly." The company is improving customer service phone/contact efforts and is aiming to do a better job on installs, Ergen said.

The second area was with high-def. DIRECTV has jumped out ahead in HD, Ergen admitted. DISH reiterated its goal of having 100 local HD markets and 100 national HD channels in place by the end of the year.

And the third item was fraud and piracy. As part of the push, Ergen said the company would replace smart cards this summer.

As for other items, Ergen spoke about the legal skirmish involving the VOOM high-def channels. Already, two-thirds of the channels have been darkened, and Ergen said the remaining Rainbow HD networks would soon be taken down from the service.

And Vice Chairman Carl Vogel spoke about the company's recent acquisition of 700 MHz licenses. He said development of the spectrum is still in the early stages, but that the company sees potential for providing portability and mobility for video services using the frequencies.

Vogel said DISH has engaged "numerous discussions with numerous parties" about possible partnerships involving the 700 MHz spectrum.